The Weekly Round-Up #307 With Karnak #1, Book Of Death: Fall Of X-O Manowar #1, Star Wars: Darth Vader #11, Invincible #124 & More

Best Comic of the Week:

Karnak #1Of all the new titles being launched at Marvel under the All-New, All-Different banner, the only one that actually excited me, and gave me the sense that it might live up to that tagline, is Karnak, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Gerardo Zaffino.  Karnak has long been my favourite Inhuman, even though he’s only rarely been used well (i.e., the Jenkins/Lee miniseries).  Ellis has him living a reclusive life at the Tower of Wisdom, where he’s taken the role of teacher and philosopher.  He is brought back into the world by Phil Coulson, tasked with finding a missing Nuhuman, being held by a splinter of AIM.  Ellis’s Karnak is dismissive and cruel, focused on his philosophy, and it makes him a very interesting character.  I’m not sure how long to expect this title to last, but I’m hoping that Ellis has a good run with this, because this first issue is excellent.

Quick Takes:

The Astonishing Ant-Man #1 – I’m really pleased to see that writer Nick Spencer has taken the time, in this completely unnecessary relaunch of his Ant-Man series, to actually acknowledge Scott Lang’s more recent history.  To that end, we acknowledge that his daughter Cassie had been a Young Avenger, that her mother was remarried to a cop named Blake, and that Lang has a storied history as a superhero.  He is, however, still a bit of a doorknob, and is working in Miami to get his security business up and running.  A meeting about a new contract goes bad when the new Power Broker uses Ant-Man and Whirlwind to demonstrate his new app, Hench, an Uber for hiring supervillains.  Spencer gives a nice light feeling to this book, and the likelihood that the new Beetle, who he used so well in Superior Foes of Spider-Man, is going to be in this book has me coming back.

Black Canary #5As the story in this series has coalesced a little more, and as the band has bonded better, I find I’m getting more out of this title.  Pia Guerra’s guest stint as artist has been very welcome, and the upcoming final showdown between Dinah and Maeve has me interested.  The most interesting thing, though, is the woman in white who has been following the band.  I have no idea how much of Dinah’s original history is still canon in the New 52, so my guesses as to that person’s identity might be way off-base.

Book of Death: Fall of X-0 Manowar #1 – The last of the future-looking one-shots that show how many of the central Valiant characters will meet their end works very well, except for confirming the fact that Commander Trill, a character I don’t like, is not going away anytime soon.  We see Aric’s last days, and a nice framing sequence that shows the lasting legacy he leaves behind, and meet the person who takes his place.  I especially liked Clayton Henry’s designs on the new X-O (Wo?)Manowar.  This event has been a good one, but that’s not a surprise, because Valiant does line-wide events better than the Big Two every time.

BPRD: Hell on Earth #136 – Things are getting a lot crazier in the Mignola-verse, as one of the Ogdru Jahad has fallen to Earth, and created great ruin.  The Bureau’s heavy hitters do what they can, and are bolstered by their Russian friends, but it’s all bleak this month.  

Darth Vader #11Vader’s been working an elaborate scam against the Empire, and now it’s all in danger of unravelling as his adjutant takes him to the exact place that his secret agents are working.  With any other character, we’d see them trying to make things work, but since Vader is completely inscrutable, it all looks like it’s going according to plan, even when he’s improvising.  That makes this comic look very cool.

The Fade Out #10 – I was a little surprised to learn that there are only two issues of The Fade Out left after this one, especially since Ed Brubaker has spent so much time building up these characters that I’d expected to spend at least another year with them, but it’s all good.  The best novels are the ones where you miss the characters after you’ve finished reading it, and this feels like it’s going to leave the same sort of feeling behind (or, it would, if any of these characters were actually likeable human beings).  The plot is beginning to hurtle towards its conclusion, especially after Charlie burgles the office of his studio’s security chief, and feels like he’s closer to blowing open all of the secrets that have been circling around him.  This is a phenomenal comic.

Gotham Academy #11 – I’ve been getting a little tired of this book, and while it’s cool to see Maps meet up with Red Robin while breaking into the paper records room of Gotham City Hall, the inconsistencies and illogic of the writing is kind of killing me.  Why would there be a night time tennis tournament for high school students? That shut me down completely on this book this month.

Invincible #124Reboot? starts, and it’s pretty great.  Robert Kirkman has sent Mark’s mind back into his teenage body, at the point just before his powers developed.  He has all of his memories of the future, and immediately begins to go about trying to head off some of the big problems that filled his earliest adventures.  Surprisingly, he never pauses to consider how his actions might be affecting his future (which is strange, given that he could easily erase his infant daughter from existence), nor does he attempt to figure out what’s happened to him or how to correct it.  The elephants in the room, of course, are that both his father, and later the hero Robot, will try to take over the Earth.  This is a fun, interesting take on the concept of the reboot.  As much as I enjoy artist Ryan Ottley’s work, it would have been cool to have original series artist Cory Walker do some or all of this issue.

Invincible Iron Man #2 – I liked this issue better than I did the first, but there are a few things about this new series that are bothering me.  For one, I would think that after Secret Wars ends (if it ever actually ends), Dr. Doom would need to be given a bit of a rest as a character.  Instead, we have him showing up immediately, effectively spoiling a lot of stuff that is still to happen in Secret Wars, which I would assume everyone knew would end up being hella late.  Next, I don’t like the way Tony has built himself an AI that sounds just like Peter Parker.  Maybe this is just because Brian Michael Bendis writes everyone as if they were Peter Parker, but it’s still annoying.  What I am interested in is learning what Madame Masque is up to.  She’s often a very interesting character, when used correctly, and Bendis seems to have a good handle on her.  I like her new mask, as designed by David Marquez, but I prefer her old-school look.  After the first issue, I’d decided to stop preordering this title.  This issue has me thinking about giving it the entire first arc before I judge it.  I guess the next issue will be a make it or break it kind of thing.

Ivar, Timewalker #10Fred Van Lente has taken this comic into a weird direction, as Ivar and Neela are trapped on a world where a talking dinosaur version of the Roman Empire holds sway.  It’s weird.  I still enjoy it, but am worried that there is a lack of focus happening.

Journey to Star Wars: Shattered Empire – The Force Awakens #4 – This prelude series comes to its close, and ultimately underwhelms a little.  If you look at this as a general survey of what was going on just after Return of the Jedi, it’s nice to see some familiar characters again, but beyond that, I suspect that the purpose of this series was to plant a tree.  I’d have been more curious to see what Greg Rucka would have gotten up to on his own, without editorial interference, as he’s hinted that he’d intended that this book be very different from what it became.  That said, this is a perfectly entertaining comic about Luke and the main character of the series infiltrating an Imperial base, and it looks great.

Secret Six #7 – Black Alice’s powers are causing problems for the mystical community, and so some people are coming to kill her, while, strangely, Etrigan is looking to keep her safe, while the rest of the team plays mini-golf.  This title is nowhere near as good as the pre-New 52 iteration, but you can see that Gail Simone is trying to make this work.  I don’t understand why Ralph Dibny is still using the identity of Big Shot, nor do I understand why the art is being split between the excellent Dale Eaglesham, and the more mediocre Tom Derenick.  Just DC being DC, I guess…

Tokyo Ghost #2After a very adrenaline-filled first issue, Rick Remender slows things down and sets up the actual plotline for this new series this month.  We learn about Ned’s relationship with Debbie, as they are sent to Japan on a mission for their boss, which is actually where Debbie was planning to go anyway.  This series explores the future of internet addiction, and is full of amazing visuals by Sean Murphy.  The Japan pages of this book are stunning.

Weirdworld #5 – I’m a little surprised by just how much of the end of Secret Wars this issue reveals, since that event is not scheduled to end for a few months yet.  At the same time, however, there’s nothing all that surprising here, knowing that things are more or less going to go back to normal in the Marvel Universe, with the addition of the Weirdworld to the mix, which we already knew, since an ongoing is being launched soon.  This is a decent issue, with the return of Crystar looking particularly cool thanks to Mike Del Mundo.  Truthfully, Del Mundo is the only reason I’ve been reading this book, as Jason Aaron never quite managed to make me care about this comic.  Del Mundo is a terrific artist, but I don’t think I’ll be returning for the on-going, not with Sam Humphries writing it, since I haven’t liked any of his Marvel work so far.  I did wonder if the inclusion of the Eyemazons in this comic was an inside joke on Aaron’s part, since he has become so strongly associated with eyeball-centric characters.

Wolf #4 I’ve been annoyed with writer Ales Kot since learning that the solicited issues of his Material won’t be coming out, and that that very interesting title is going to be offered on an annual-ish basis.  Wolf is not as ambitious as Material, and while I’ve been enjoying it up to this point, my sense of irritation, and the fact that some of the dialogue approaches Kevin Smith levels of length, impacted my enjoyment of this comic.

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

1872 #4

Amazing Spider-Man #2

Astro City #28

Batman and Robin Eternal #3

Clean Room #1

Cognetic #1

Crossed: Dead or Alive #1

Crossed: Dead or Alive #2

Dark Horse Presents #15

Doctor Fate #5

Get Jiro Blood and Sushi HC

Secret Wars: Agents of Atlas #1

SHIELD #11

Uncanny Inhumans #1

Wolf Moon TP

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Scout Vol. 2 – I liked the first volume of this series more, as Tim Truman’s series became pretty hard to follow in places through these issues.  I find it interesting how some aspects of his vision of the future came to pass, and I like the way in which a First Nations character is given such prominence, but at the end of the day, I don’t really know what’s going on in this comic.  Truman’s art, and that of guest artists Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette, are very nice however.

Two Brothers

by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, based on the work of Milton Hatoum

Brazilian cartoonists Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are two of my favourite people working in comics.  Their work with writers like Matt Fraction, Joss Whedon, Gerard Way, and Mike Mignola has always impressed me, and their Daytripper is one of my favourite series of all time.  I was very excited to get my hands on this new graphic novel, Two Brothers, based on a novel by the Brazilian writer Milton Hatoum.

This book tells the story of a Lebanese family that lived in Manaus, Brazil, after the Second World War.  Halim and Zana have three children: their daughter Rânia, and twin sons, Omar and Yakub.  They live with Domingas, an indigenous orphan they took in to work as a servant, and eventually, with her son Nael, who is the narrator of this book.

The two sons started fighting at an early age, and when Yakub made a move on a girl that both boys were interested in, Omar slashed his face, scarring him forever.  After this, Halim contrived to send Yakub to live and attend school in Lebanon.  It was supposed to be both boys who left, but Zana always favoured Omar, and kept him at home.

This made the rifts in the family unbridgeable, and after he returned to Brazil, Yakub stayed distant, and the conflict between the brothers continued to grow.  We follow this family over decades, as everyone except Omar, who remained a perpetual and unrepentant adolescent, grows older and settles into the lives that their choices have afforded them.

Moon and Bá do an amazing job of capturing the drama within this family, as well as the group’s shifting fortunes.  We see a grand family decay much as the house around them does, just as the country goes through a series of repressive coups and militaristic crackdowns.  Floating slums are demolished, as are Zana’s dreams for her children, especially her beloved caçula (youngest son).

Having not read Hatoum’s novel, I have no idea how closely the brothers chose to stick to his plot, or if they restructured the story.  I am, as always, impressed by the way they seamlessly work together to craft a deeply affecting and moving story.

It’s hard, when reading this book, to not wonder at the conversations the twin creators must have had, as twin brothers telling a story about twin brothers.  Where Bá and Moon collaborate constantly, Omar and Yakub cannot even be in the same room without resorting to violence, and that makes me wonder how many old arguments were dredged up in the crafting of this book.

I’m tempted to seek out a copy of Hatoum’s novel, just to see how much of themselves Bá and Moon put into their adaptation.  It would also give me a good excuse to reread this book, which I’m tempted to do even though I just finished it.

 

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